Is VCE Good For The Customer?
Jeff Byrne and Dave Bartoletti write:
Earlier this month, Cisco and EMC, along with VMware announced the Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) Coalition. It’s a powerhouse initiative with an admirable goal: packaging compute and storage resources along with a virtualization platform to deliver “blocks” of virtualized goodness. These vBlocks come in three flavors, and the plan is to build and pre-test them to customer specifications, then facilitate delivery either as in-house or hosted (Cloud) package, via a new services arm, called Acadia.
The reaction has been expectedly mixed, and we are also of two minds about such grand alliances. While the allure of pre-packaged virtual infrastructure can dazzle, it’s not clear that the market demand will exist anytime soon. Many likely target customers already have VMware virtualization, and probably have EMC storage as well. Is the lure of Cisco servers strong enough to drive a rip-and-replace project for existing server hardware? We understand the motivation for Cisco, but why would VMware or EMC be particularly excited by this?
VCE could have some real advantages, but we see them limited to existing VMware/EMC customers or “Greenfield” accounts:
- Accelerate an end user’s journey to a productive virtual infrastructure, and ultimately a private or hybrid cloud
- Simplify joint testing, integration and packaging of infrastructure that can be tailored to particular user or vertical market needs
- Provide a single “get started” source via Acadia, for less virtualized organizations
However, as we’ve seen in the past with these kinds of closed, vendor-led coalitions, there’s a good chance VCE will:
- Not provide customers with freedom of choice, or the flexibility that virtualization enables
- Impose proprietary standards and lock-in, making it more expensive to explore virtualization alternatives down the road
- Cause prices to remain artificially inflated, due to the dominant market positions of the participating vendors
For existing EMC/VMware customers, the economics will have to be incredibly compelling to justify swapping out existing server platforms for Cisco products. Customers with enough virtualization already in place to be feeling growth pains will likely have developed enough internal expertise with virtualization to want to keep their options open across all virtualized tiers in the datacenter stack.
Unfortunately, in our view, VCE means “VMware Cisco EMC”, as much as it means “Virtual Computing Environment.”
As such, the coalition is clearly an attack on IBM and HP, neither of which suffers from a lack of worthy partners or will have a problem building out a similar services offering. If, in the end, VCE spurs greater competition and innovation in and around virtual infrastructure technology and solutions, and therefore greater freedom of choice and reduced ownership costs, then end users will win. But chances are, VCE will lead to less productive outcomes, at least in the near term.
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